Joseph Kasko

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — South Carolina will soon play a key role in the 2020 presidential election, as the state will host the “first in the South” primary Feb. 29. As a result, a number of Democratic candidates have been traveling to the state to campaign and reach out to voters.

Most recently, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren made stops in Rock Hill. Additionally, Sanders, in September, and California Sen. Kamala Harris, earlier this year, visited the Winthrop University campus for campaign events.

“Nationally, I think the 20-some candidate Democratic field is going to narrow. Not everybody is going to be able to raise enough money to get to stay in the race, to run the advertising and the things they need to do,” said Dr. John Holder, an adjunct professor of political science at Winthrop.

Holder, who is teaching a class this semester on the presidency, was a guest on the Palmetto Report to discuss South Carolina’s role in the presidential race.

“There will not be 20 candidates running by the time it gets to South Carolina, even though we are the fourth state in the process. So we’re after Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, so we’re very early and we’ve seen a lot of these people, but not all of them are going to be active candidates by Feb. 29,” he said.

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) was the latest candidate to end his presidential bid last week.

The latest Winthrop Poll, released Oct. 1, showed former Vice President Joe Biden (37 percent) leading Warren (17 percent) and Sanders (8 percent) among likely S.C. Democratic voters.

Harris (7 percent) was fourth and the 15 remaining candidates, including South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Pete Buttigieg (4 percent), all received less than 5 percent of support.

“I’m not at all surprised that Vice President Biden is so strong here. He has long-standing relationships in the state, he has long-standing relationships with many of the traditional power brokers in the state Democratic Party, he has very high name-recognition and affection in the African American community,” said Holder.

“He was Barack Obama’s vice president and that still means a lot to a lot of people.”

South Carolina will also play a role in the Republican primary, considering former Gov. and Rep. Mark Sanford has announced he will challenge President Donald Trump for the party’s nomination.

“I think he’s legitimately concerned about the issues he has raised. Now maybe he wants to stay in politics,” said Holder.

However, Holder said gaining the nomination will be a challenge for Sanford, or any other candidate, because a number of states, including South Carolina, have decided not to hold a primary, because many expected Trump to run unopposed.

“Now there is a lawsuit, filed by former Congressman Bob Inglis, seeking to require (the state) to hold a primary, apparently just so people…Republican voters in South Carolina can register their opposition to Trump, to see how much there is,” he said.

Holder said he doesn’t think Sanford has much chance of defeating the president for the nomination.

“Unfortunately for him, I think a lot of his name recognition is negative,” he said.

“Sanford has been involved in controversies of his own. He was recently defeated for re-election,” he said. “If I’ve left office as governor under a cloud and been defeated for the U.S. House of Representatives, I’m probably not going to think that running for president is my next logical career move, but we’ll see.”